Greenwashing in the fast-moving consumer goods sector comes under the spotlight

As litigation based on claims of greenwashing steadily increases, examination of consumer facing businesses and their ESG statements continues to rise. On 26 January, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) announced that it was expanding its scrutiny of greenwashing claims into the fast-moving consumer goods (“FMCG”) sector. The investigation will focus on essential products that consumers use on a daily basis and regularly repurchase, such as dishwashing items and toilet products of which 91% and 100%, respectively, market themselves as ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’. The CMA will analyse claims made in store and online, including all forms of media (app, website). Particular areas of concern are broad, vague statements claiming that a product is ‘sustainable’ or ‘better’ for the environment; how recyclable a product is; and ranges being described as ‘sustainable’. The focus on ‘essential’ items suggests that the CMA is concerned that potential greenwashing of these items will impact large swathes of the consumer population, and they will be keen to ensure that any greenwashing is subject to appropriate scrutiny.

This expansion is not wholly surprising. ‘Eco-conscious’ purchases are becoming increasingly prevalent within the FMCG sector, with recent reports suggesting that 52% of shoppers say sustainability is…

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